The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘welfare’

RAH! RAH! AMERICA

For some reason, President Obama’s use of the “n” word during a radio interview has caused a brand new conversation about race,  racism and the inevitable segue into “white privilege” in America.  Why anyone pays attention to what the Klutz in Charge has to say is beyond me.  God knows the Iranians could care less and the Israelis cringe every time El Jefe speaks.  Well, perhaps America’s new found friend, Fidel Castro cares since that was a title that used to be reserved for him.

Perhaps I can lay my attitudes at the feet of my parents.  They taught me to judge people not by their race, nationality, religion, gender or anything else other than who they were as people.  And that judgment was not made until you saw how they treated other people.  If they were kind, considerate, generous – then they were good people and were the kind of folks that we would have over for dinner.  If not, then we would pray for them and try to encourage them to adopt the characteristics that I described earlier.  Well, it was a simpler time when we learned values from family and religious leaders rather than the internet.

During the course of many years in business I hired many people.  Furthermore, being in the business of executive search my staff and I referred many thousands of people as candidates for positions.  We did so irrespective of that person’s race, age, gender or anything other than their qualifications and ability to do the job for which they interviewed.  In the sweet bye and bye, the Federal government came along and told us that we should be doing just what we had been doing all along.  And caused us to fill out additional paperwork to prove that what we were doing was moral, ethical and legal.  I often wondered why they were the supreme arbiters of the first two of those items.

Now if everyone had my upbringing, this whole conversation about racism would be moot – that is if we all had parents like mine and we all had listened to them.  But obviously that is not the case.  And while I have heard arguments that racism exists worldwide, which is probably a true statement, that hardly mitigates its existence here.

If we want to look at one of the most obvious examples of racism we have to turn the clock back to February 19, 1942 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 (he had a pen,too), which resulted in the internment of more than 110,000 Japanese resident aliens and U. S. Citizens as well as approximately 300 Italian-Americans and about 5,000 German-Americans who also were citizens.  Those of us who marvel that we were foolish enough not only to elect BHO in 2008 but to repeat the error in 2012 should take some solace in the fact that the country elected one of the most prominent racists in American history, FDR no fewer than four times.  (For those of you who are younger or got your American history via the public school system, Roosevelt was a Democrat).

It seems reasonable before we solve the world’s problem with racism we should first clean our own house.  After all, how can we, with moral impunity, critique the Chinese for hating the Japanese or the Indians for hating the Pakistanis, to cite only two of numerous examples, unless we set an example ourselves?  And I am pleased to say that I have a solution which I will be forwarding to my Representative in Congress and one of my senators.  (I’m not going to send a copy to Harry Reid out of respect for his eye condition and otherwise generally deteriorating health, physical and mental).

I am proposing that we establish a national program and create a new Cabinet level position which will be called the Department of RAH.  In this case, RAH stands for Rent A Human.  (Those of you who know how much I would like to reduce the size of the Federal government may be surprised at this proposal, creating as it were yet another bureaucracy.  But I have that covered.  We abolish the Department of Education thus making this a zero sum swap out.)

This is how it would work.  Any person would be able to rent any other person in the United States to be their “friend.”  But instead of this being a merely symbolic friendship as on Facebook and the rest of the social media, the person who wanted to befriend (or rent) another person, would pay a fee for that privilege, the price depending on the specific characteristics of the person to be rented.  Needless to say, the more characteristics which are currently in vogue, the greater the fee.  But the good thing is that the fee for renting people would go directly to the person so rented.  For some of the more popular categories, this might result in people being truly lifted out of poverty and the welfare rolls.

I haven’t worked out all the details (give me time), but as an example, if a white person wanted to rent a black person (your ordinary vanilla type individual), the fee would be, let’s say, $20 a month.  But if you wanted to add someone to your friendship list such as a transgendered black male who thought he was a lesbian and who happened to have an Hispanic surname and several felony convictions, well that might cost you a couple of thousand a month.  True, only good liberals like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Hollywood celebrities might be able to afford such a “friend” but hey, what the heck, they have the money to spare.

So, other than the obvious of doing good, what’s in it for the people of the United States and the country itself?  Quite a lot.  First, if we get enough of our citizens involved, and I’m banking on the fact that there is still a great deal of generosity in America, we might totally wipe out the need for anyone to be on welfare – which would be a tremendous savings to each of us.  And for the person who collects the most points for the greatest number of “RAH” members (weight adjusted based on characteristics) in any given year, I would propose that we put their likeness on our ten cent pieces, retiring Roosevelt from that coin along with the Confederate Flag to a museum and a place in racist history.

MY BROTHER’S KEEPER

He was sitting on a backpack outside the 7-eleven last Thursday about 7:30 in the morning.  I had stopped by to pick up a cup of coffee.  As I came out with my warm cup of Joe in my hand, he asked me in a soft voice if I could spare any change.

Before I answered, I took a moment to size him up.  He was in his late teens, perhaps his early 20’s, freshly washed and very deferential.  He actually said, “Please” when he made his request – a word that is seldom used by most in society today.  That disposed me to wanting to help him.

I asked the young man, “Why do you need the change?”

He answered that he was trying to get bus fare together.  So I gave him the change I had in my pocket, wished him a good day and drove home.

The following day I stopped by the convenience store again at about the same time.  The young man I met the day before was there once again.  Again he asked me for some change as I exited the store and showed no apparent recognition that he had met me the day before.  Perhaps I’m just one of those highly forgettable people.

As I had done previously, I asked him why he needed the money and got the same response – that it was for bus fare.  It occurred to me that if he had to go to school or a job he would have been certain to make sure he had enough money to get to his destination.  This suggested that he wasn’t looking for bus fare but that he had developed this ploy as part of a panhandling routine.

I felt sorry for this kid, so I asked him where he needed to go by bus.  He gave me his destination which was about eight miles away.  I was curious whether he was just scamming the people who patronized the store or really wanted to go where he said, so I responded, “You know, I have some free time on my hands and if you’d like I’d be happy to drive you there.”

“No, that’s okay,” he said.

That response confirmed what I suspected.

I thought for a moment about starting a conversation as to why a young guy in good health should have descended to panhandling as a way of life.  What a tragedy.  But then I thought better of it.  After all, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Well, in a sense the Federal government has made all of us into our brothers’ keepers by taxing us to subsidize those whom the politicians have determined to be in need.  That number has increased significantly in the last five years.

I have never refused anyone a small handout.  Nor have I generally given much thought to whether the story the panhandler gave as a reason for needing my donation was true or a complete fabrication.  In all honesty, a quarter or a dollar isn’t going to change my life – but it might help out the person who is in sincere need.

What bothers me about my recent encounter is that our culture has changed so much that youngsters like the kid I met find it easier to beg for a living than to go out and try to get a job – even a job doing odd jobs.  I know there’s something that he could do – if only offering to help customers carry their packages to their cars at the large supermarket which shares the parking lot with the convenience store.

Years ago there was an expression that was in common use.  That phrase was “workaholic.”  I think the term has been deleted from the dictionary.  Today those who have worked hard, built businesses and provided employment for millions of people whom they have hired for their ventures are vilified.  Success is denigrated.  Achievement is minimized.  So what is the message that our government is offering the nation?  “There’s no need to work – and you should feel good about that because the government is here to take care of you.”

And the government is indeed “taking care” of more and more of us.  In fact, if you look at the economics of it, maybe my young friend at the convenience store has got it right in refusing to find a job and become self-sufficient.

According to a study that Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R – AL) staff compiled based on data from the U. S. Census Bureau, the average hourly rate for being on welfare which includes food subsidies, housing subsidies, medical assistance and cash assistance is $30.60.  The median household income per working American is $25.03  before adjusting downward for income taxes.  After adjustment that number declines to as little as $21.50 per hour, depending on filing status and deductions.  And then there is a further reduction from that amount in jurisdictions in which the worker is subject to state or local income tax.  (The study was conducted using 2012 data and published in 2013).

Whether the present administration likes it or not, the United States was founded based on Judaeo-Christian ethics.  In both those religious traditions there is a strong admonition for believers to offer a helping hand and charity to those who are less fortunate than they.

Should people help their brother when he cries out in need?  I believe that each of us should – but that is a matter of choice and personal conscience.  When the government says, “We are our brother’s keeper” there is neither true charity rendered to the recipients nor is there dignity conferred by the action.  And if the government purposefully attempts to make idleness a life goal and more profitable than contributing to society through personal work and effort, that is nothing short of complete venality.

RAPE AND RACISM

There is no secret that the number of black Americans who identify themselves as conservatives is very small.  It’s not surprising that those who do are people who made something of themselves – despite the hurdles and barricades that they had to overcome.  And we have do have a history of making things tough for American blacks.

Now most of us will point point to organizations such as the KKK and their harassment of southern blacks – or point to the American Nazi Party and other white supremacist groups and lay the blame at their feet.  There is no question that their message of hate has resulted in violence and death among our black community members.  They are Neanderthals who need to go to night class so that they can learn how to evolve an opposable thumb.

But as evil as they have been in expressing their racism in acts of violence against individuals – they are not the real problem – at least not today.  No, the real racists are those of whatever color who believe that we should keep our blacks on the plantation.  But rather than have them work in the fields or serve as butler or servants in the main house, we reward them for indolence with our paternalistic continuation of “the white man’s burden” philosophy that was so prevalent in the European colonization of Africa and the Indian subcontinent in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

That paternalism results in one thing – dependency.  And if someone controls another person on the most fundamental levels of providing that person food, shelter and medical care, he holds power over that individual.  Psychologists tell us that the rapist is not fulfilling a sexual fantasy when he defiles a woman.  Rather, he is satisfying a need to demonstrate his superiority and the fact that he has power over that victim.  To my mind rape and racism are terms which are largely interchangeable. Both are evil.

Perhaps the difference between the two is that rape is little more than a specific event – which for the victim has long-term psychological implications.  Whereas racism is an on-going process – which also has long-term psychological implications not only for the victim but for society as well.

There is a reason that when slavery was legal in the United States, every state which allowed the practice had laws on the books which prohibited the education of slaves.  “Keep them dumb and pregnant” – that was the mantra and the business model.  And by and large it worked.

Well, in theory we now educate blacks – but that is more theory than reality.  If you look at the four year high school graduation rate in the black community it is only at a 52% level.  And that only reflects those who have actually gone on to high school.

What can you do with that level of education in today’s technological society?  Work at a fast food restaurant – at a minimum, unlivable wage.  The only hope that offers is that a person will survive for another day.  That isn’t life – and certainly is not the American dream.

When Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech he had a vision of equal opportunity for all.  Those in the black – and many in the white community – welcomed and embraced his message.  Had he lived, this country might look very different than it does.  I have no doubt that Dr. King would not have endorsed the philosophy or presidency of a Barack Obama.  Because Obama has, at every opportunity, perpetuated the philosophy of the old slave owners.  “Keep them dumb and pregnant.”

For a president who excoriated the colonialists and their paternalism, he has written a playbook of which they would have been proud.  He has increased black dependency in order to get their votes and gain personal power.  He is no different than the rapist who has molested his victim.  But in this case, the victim is the United States of America.

And frankly, most blacks in this country have bought into their own enslavement because they simply haven’t received the cognitive training and education to see through this welfare farce and recognize it for what it really is – enslavement.  If you question that, look at the percentage of blacks who voted for the Chief Enslaver.

But there may be some hope.  Some black Americans slipped through the educational abyss and are armed and dangerous.  They are equipped with a vision of a truly equal America and they are prepared to enter the fight armed with one of the strongest weapons mankind has ever known – the truth.

One of those is a State Senator from the state of Louisiana, the Hon. Elbert Guillory.  This might be the most important statement by a responsible person in the black community since Dr. King’s “Dream Speech.”

There may be those within the lowest economic echelons of the black community who might hear and reject Sen. Guillory’s message.  I understand that while they have and realize that they have little, they view that as better than taking the risk of throwing out the slave masters and having nothing.  But as the message points out, one day the food stamps won’t arrive, the Medicare card won’t work and the welfare check won’t cash.

But as long as people are willing to sell themselves into slavery, they ought not to complain about racism.  And if they continue their silence and refuse to act in their own best interests, their continuing rape is inevitable.

THE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL/AN AMERICAN ORDEAL

If I were a bookmaker, I’d lay 10/1 that George Zimmerman will be found guilty on at least some charge.  I’d feel very confident in that bet – and it has nothing to do with my review of the trial or the evidence which has been presented.  It has to do with the culture that is ever-present today in American society.

It is the culture that must find in the scapegoat “racism” the diversion to distract us from the fact that the policies that so-called liberals have put in place over decades have created a permanent, impoverished, uneducated underclass to which the majority of our black (or if you prefer African-American) citizens belong.  It is a tragedy, and anyone who has ever voted in Congress to expand or extend “welfare” rather than devise a program of “workfare” should, in my mind, be arrested, tried, convicted and jailed for life without possibility of parole.

I mentioned this in a much earlier post but an experience from my days in the temporary help business bears repeating – particularly in light of this trial and the overall culture we find in America today.  It is a story about a young black woman who responded to an ad and who was looking for employment.

One of our best clients, the Quaker Oats Company needed someone to do filing and make copies on their Xerox equipment.  The position was scheduled to last for two months but there was a good possibility that they might hire the individual permanently.

Most of the people whom we put out on assignment had extensive skills, far beyond the level of this position so our list of potential candidates to fill this spot was limited which is why we advertised the job.  The day after the ad appeared in “The Chicago Tribune” a young woman arrived at our office to apply for the position.  I interviewed her myself.

Because I was interested in maintaining my relationship with the client, I was willing to take a loss on this job and planned on paying the applicant far more than the going rate – specifically, I would offer a salary of three dollars over minimum wage – minimum wage or a few cents more being what the position was worth in the market.

I sat down with this young woman who was 22 years old.  She was dressed very appropriately for a job interview.  It was obvious that she had taken the time to try to put herself forward in the best possible light.  She seemed eager to find a job and, in fact, was the first one to respond.  I liked that about her.

She did not have a high school diploma – owing to the fact that the first of her children was born when she was 17.  She also had two younger kids.  Nevertheless, she seemed quite bright – and I was impressed with her attitude.  She wanted to do better for herself and her children.

After decades of interviewing people, sometimes you just have to go by gut feelings rather than documentation and I wanted to give her a chance to enter the work force.  (Other than having done some babysitting, she had never held a job).  So I offered her the position and told her what it would pay.

As I said, she was bright.  She asked how many hours a week she would be able to work so I told her 37-1/2.

She did some rough multiplication and came up with her weekly gross earnings.

Then she looked at me and said, “You know, I would really like to take this job but I can’t afford to.  I know there’s taxes going to come out of this, and I’d have to spend on carfare to get to and from, and I’d have to pay a baby sitter, and if I take this I would lose my welfare and Medicaid and one of the babies has got the colic.  I just can’t afford to take this job.”

I nearly cried.  This young woman was exactly correct.  It made no monetary sense for her to accept this job – and if not this one, certainly not any other at minimum wage.  Thus we had condemned her to a life on the public dole – a life in which she had only dependence and could never develop self-respect.  What a tragedy.

That interview haunted me for days and while I will not say it was the “Eureka moment” which caused me to march to a conservative way of thinking (I was already there), it certainly reinforced my belief that was the correct path.

That interview occurred about 20 years ago.  It would be incorrect for me to say that nothing has changed.  It has – and for the worse.  And every time politicians expand a welfare benefit, they tighten their grasp and twist the noose around the necks of those whom they need for the sole reason of getting themselves re-elected.

There is an obvious solution to this problem – so simple that you don’t need a PhD. in Economics to understand it.  Here it is.

Rather than cut off a person from welfare and Medicaid because they have found employment, simply reduce those benefits by a percentage, based on their earnings on their job.  In that way, the person is going to have significantly more money to take home and spend and will have an incentive to seek employment.  The other benefit is that the taxpayers will save money.  And perhaps the most important benefit is that the individual who is working will be able to take pride in herself.

So what does this all have to do with George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin?  Everything.

You see if you slap the word racism around loud enough and often enough; if you have the not very Rev. Al Sharpton bellowing it at the top of his lungs; if you have constant media attention paid to the trial of the allegedly “racist” Mr. Zimmerman; if you have Obama commenting on it; you have set the stage to divert the easily diverted public’s attention from the failings of our Congress; from our departure from the American ideal of America being a place where you can have anything you desire if you’re only willing to work for it; and from the real racists – who have built a power base composed of the ignorant, uneducated, welfare mothers and children who think having an Obama phone is the greatest thing in the world.

Those who have voted to establish this group that is only one step removed from slavery are the ones who should be on trial.  Not Mr. Zimmerman.

THEY “GONNA PUT YA’LL BACK IN CHAINS”

Some people think Vice President Joe Biden is merely inept and insensitive.  I think that he’s planning a second career as a script writer for SNL should he and President Obama’s bid for re-election fail.  So far he’s managed to offend blacks, Greeks, and Indians (the kind that he thinks were destined to own and operate 7-11’s) and can it be a long wait until he starts telling Pollock jokes?

What the Vice President doesn’t understand is that there is some truth in his statement, that blacks are “Gonna get put back in chains.”  The part of the statement that he doesn’t comprehend is that is exactly the case now and has become increasingly more so under the greatest expansionist of the “Welfare State,” President Barack Obama.

Welfare is perhaps the greatest oxymoron in our language.  Very simply put – it isn’t.  It is indentured servitude and has created a permanent underclass with no education, no future and no hope.  It allows people to subsist below the poverty level in an environment of despair, overcrowded housing conditions and with exposure to personal violence that, if we were to see their real lives portrayed on television, we would be horrified.

This is not the “Good Times” of Esther Rolle and Jimmie Walker, living in a housing project in Chicago and keeping it together as a family.  That is an image that does not stand up to the reality of the average black welfare recipient’s life – a life which includes poor medical care and an insufficient income to feed the family which is headed up by a mother with no father present in more than seven of ten cases.

This is a story about a life where the children born into it experience a nationwide drop out rate from high school of nearly seventy percent and a teenage pregnancy rate that is six times the national average – perpetuating yet another generation destined to live in poverty and ignorance.

This is a story where the average life expectancy of a resident is 12 years shorter than for their black brothers who live in middle class neighborhoods, due to disease and violent death.

This is a true American tragedy – and it is at the feet of our politicians that we should lay the blame.  They have done everything in their power to continue the enslavement of this large segment of our population in a manner that would have embarrassed their ancestors’ former owners.  Why?  Because this is a dependable block of votes to keep the perpetrators in power and the voters, who know no better, miserable and dependent.

Thank heaven for industry which has provided a means of escape from this life of poverty and despair – although that exit sign is open only to a few – those who have the potential to become professional athletes or have careers in entertainment.  For there is no other way out for this populace whom we have created.  Even if the economy were booming, they simply do not have the skills to fill possible job openings – not even within government.

So Vice President Biden, spend a day visiting one of the public housing projects that you and your party have created – if you dare.  And if you can come away from that experience with a clever remark on your lips and a smile on your face – well then it should be clear to all that it is you who are the joke.  And no one is laughing.

VOTING IN FEAR

The 15th Amendment to the Constitution struck down the denial of the right to vote based on race.

The 24th Amendment to the Constitution struck down the ability of the states to impose a poll tax on voters – whose goal was ultimately to undermine the 15th Amendment and to deny black Americans the right to cast their ballots.

I offer this information as historical background.  The right to vote is an inestimable privilege and responsibility.  To go into the public forum and state your opinion, free of the prospect of harassment.  Which brings me to the subject of this post.

A few days ago I spoke with an elderly neighbor, a lady in her 80’s and asked if I might take her to the grocery store with me.  She readily agreed since I think that she recognizes her driving is not quite as good as it once was.

This lady, I’ll call her, Lily is a white woman who grew up in Biloxi, Mississippi.  She married a man who had a career in the U. S. Air Force and whose last deployment was here in Las Vegas at Nellis AFB.  He passed away quite a few years ago.

During our ride to the store, Lily brought up the rapidly rising cost of groceries and engaged me in a political conversation – much to my surprise.  Of course, regular readers of this blog will realize these are subjects which interest me, so we spoke.

She said that, “Despite everything that he has done, I am thinking about voting for President Obama on November 6th.”

I asked, “Why?  Do you have something against Romney?”

“Oh, no.  I think he is honest – but doesn’t have a lot of personality.  I think he probably would be a better President.”

This confounded me, so I asked, “Well, why would you vote for Obama?”

Her answer really shocked me.

“I’m afraid what will happen if Obama loses.  I’m afraid that a lot of his supporters will start breaking into stores and burglarizing houses because they see the end of their meal-ticket.  And I live by myself.  I’m afraid for my safety.”

By “a lot of his supporters” I took it that Lily meant people who happened to be black Americans.  I find that statement (if my inference is correct) to be offensive – but I also understand her cultural background in making it.  And I understand her fear which is real.

I remember the riots in Watts, almost 47 years ago to the day.  And I know that Lily remembers those events as well.

What Lily may not understand is that this is not a matter of color but is a matter of economics.  And there is less opportunity for many members of the black community than there is for other members of our society. We see that clearly in the rate of unemployment for blacks which is nearly twice the national average.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s I knew some people who looked at welfare, then merely in its infancy, and looked down on the people who accepted it.  Concurrent with their disdain was the underlying belief that this was a program that was designed only for the benefit of black Americans.  They were wrong.  At the time, the majority of welfare recipients were white.

If you create a class of people who have no upward mobility because of lack of education, few marketable skills and a mindset that life is about waiting until the first of the month when the EBT card gets refilled so that they can survive another thirty days, you have created the kind of potential scenario which my friend Lily fears.  That is just what we have created through our government policies which have transformed slavery into welfare.

What my friend Lily may not understand is that eventually this has to stop for the simple reason that we have run out of the ability to pay for these sorts of programs (and probably, whether our politicians will admit it or not, realize that this was a poorly misguided attempt to bring about social justice).  There is simply no quick fix for a problem that has been fifty years in the creation.

It would be naïve to believe that President Obama is the cause of this problem.  It would be equally naïve to believe that a President Romney will spend four years in office and fix it.  But we know that continuing our present path is surely not the answer that a person with vision would endorse.

The answer at its most basic lies with education.   That is, by it’s nature, a long-term solution and does not address the issue of those adults who have not benefited from it themselves and who comprise a growing portion of our society.  To be candid, I do not know the answer for how to improve their prospects – but at least I am willing to face the problem and think about it honestly.

What Lily may not understand is that we are at a turning point – irrespective of who is the next President.  Our fiscal imprudence is going to cause us to have to look not only at social programs like welfare but the entire way that we as a country conduct ourselves and our business.

At some point, all it would take would be those who have willingly purchased our bonds to float our increasing debt to say, “We don’t know if our money is safe in America any more,” and to stop.  That would create an implosion that would be heard around the world.  And with the recent downgrade in our debt, for the first time in our history, that day many not be too far down the road.

Or consider a natural disaster.  A violent sun spot emission knocks out our communication systems.  We have become so dependent on technology that if we found ourselves without it, most of us would find ourselves helpless.  With no communication, society would quickly find itself victimized by the predators who would loot stores and steal food.  And when that food has disappeared from the shelves,  with law enforcement taxed beyond anything it was ever designed to do, you can see the possible scenarios that might ensue.

This is a dire picture.  It is not one that any of us wants to imagine or believes might happen.   In fact, we find it so dreadful that those who have the ability to take steps to avert it, our political leaders, have declined to do so because the remedies will require that we all change our lifestyles and our outlook.  And people whose way of life is challenged don’t make for happy voters.

We have a choice this November.  We may, like may friend Lily vote to continue the policies which have brought us to this place – for fear of the possibility of civil insurrection.  But that will merely insure that state of unrest will come to pass – if not now, soon.

Or we can take the common sense approach – acknowledge that we have real problems that demand realistic solutions and vote for people who tell us the truth, as painful as that may be for us to hear, and who start us back on a course away from the brink – while there is still time.  If there is still time.

Living in fear is a terrible existence.  If our fear determines how and for whom we vote, we bring that misery down on an entire nation.

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THE 13TH AMMENDMENT

 “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” (Ratified by the states on December 6, 1865).

 Thus ended slavery in America – at least on paper.

 Recently, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich got in trouble for making the statement that President Obama was the most successful president in increasing the number of welfare recipients and that he, Gingrich wanted to be the most successful president in creating jobs and providing Americans with paychecks. First to toss their hat into the fray was the NAACP.

 I have difficulty understanding why people confuse facts with emotions – often giving far more credence to their emotions in spite of the obvious facts which are before them. Not only is this an unenlightened attitude – it leads directly to a culture of intolerance and bigotry – the very things against which the participants believe they are fighting.

 In an earlier post (“Grandma Was Right”) I referred to an incident in which I had been mugged. As it happened, my assailants were three African-American thugs. That is not a commentary about our brethren who are African-American. It is merely a statement of who my assailants happened to be – nothing more.  I refer to it only because the question of my assailants’ race was the first one that the Chicago police asked me in their efforts to apprehend them. 

 If I am an African-American, that statement would be accepted as a matter of fact. However, if I am white or oriental – all of a sudden the ugly question of racism rears it’s head.  What is my “real” motivation in levying this charge? 

 There are times when allegations of  racism are founded. But I mourn for those whose minds are so limited (whether they be the accusers or those who deserve to be accused) that they see the world in such a narrow way and use racism as a first line of defense or as a justification for their actions.

 I have a lot of respect for (and a lot of questions about) the former Speaker of the House. I consider him to be one of the most articulate in the Republican beauty contest that is currently playing out. But I will defend him and his statement based on a personal experience.

 When I owned my temporary help business my staff interviewed large numbers of candidates in order to fill the orders our clients placed with us. My firm specialized in more highly skilled workers – the primary emphasis in our Chicago office being on legal secretaries. Occasionally, a client would request someone to assist them who had lesser skills.

 It happened that one of our clients, the largest law firm in the city, asked if we could provide them someone for a project that would last for at least three months. They needed someone to photocopy documents for two large cases which they were trying.  We attempted to oblige – but the number of our employees with marginal skills was limited.

As the project would not begin for several weeks, we had some time to find a new employee who could commit to the assignment. We asked our temporary employees if they knew of anyone who would be interested and offered them a referral bonus.  We also advertised the position extensively in the local newspapers.

One day my staff was involved in dispatching our temps when a woman in her mid-20’s came in to apply for the photocopying job. As it happened she was an African-American woman.  Since my staff was occupied, I interviewed her myself once she had completed the paperwork that we required of new potential employees.

I sat across from her in one of our interview rooms after I had reviewed her application. She had very limited skills and no work background – but our client was willing to provide on-the-job training and she seemed pleasant and eager to find her way into the work force.

As we sat and chatted she asked me, “How much does this job pay?” I considered that an informed and legitimate question, so I responded, “It’s a forty hour work week and we would pay you five dollars an hour for a total of two hundred dollars per week.” (By the way, minimum wage was a little over two dollars an hour).

She looked at me and said, “Hell, I can’t afford to take this job. I get $640 per month from welfare that I would lose if I got hired. Then I’d have to take the bus to get to work – that’s fifteen dollars a week; I have two kids at home that I would have to get a sitter for at ten dollars a day – that’s fifty dollars; and I take care of two kids two times a week that I get paid twenty dollars “cash money” to mind. I’d be making less than if I stayed home and did nothing.”

I couldn’t argue with this lady’s math or logic. She was exactly right. She could sit home and make more than by becoming a contributing member of the workforce. If I were in her place I would have made exactly the same decision. And that’s the real American tragedy.

We have created a system of dis-incenting people from contributing to our economy.  Instead of being contributors they are takers – although what they take is at sub-subsistence levels which most of us would reject as insufficient.

There is a rational way to address this problem – one that is not based on emotion but on fact. Instead of cutting off a person’s welfare benefits because they have found employment, what if we merely reduced those benefits?

As a suggestion, for each four dollars that a person earned, their welfare check would be reduced by one dollar. In this example, this lady’s welfare check would be cut by $200 per month – but she would have earned an additional $800. Even with the cost of carfare, paying for child care and losing the “cash money” she earned from overseeing other children, she would be substantially ahead.

This is a common sense and economically-efficient solution to leading us out of the welfare mentality Washington has created.  This is the sort of program we need to implement to start fixing our economy – and more importantly restoring the American mind-set of rewarding contribution rather than indolence. It is an idea that I believe Speaker Gingrich would support and the NAACP could endorse.

Otherwise, while we have theoretically abolished slavery – the truth is that the Federal Government has merely institutionalized it in an only slightly different form.

 

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